Andropause and loss of libido – are you affected?

Andropause just might be more than a drop in testosterone production. It’s not officially recognized in the medical field, probably because the link between hormone levels and all the associated symptoms isn’t always clear.

Men's Health

Sonia Chartier

15 October 2016

One thing is for sure: libido declines with age, sometimes even vanishing entirely.

And you want it back, right? 

Some clinics offer testosterone treatments, thoroughly convinced that they’ll relieve all the symptoms of andropause. It’s perfectly normal that, once you hit 30, 40, 50, or even later, you’re not quite as sex-crazed as you were when you were 18—actually, that’s probably a good thing—but chances are you’d still like to have a satisfying sex life.

What can affect libido as you age?

Testosterone levels gradually drop off starting at around 30 years of age. At the same time, the body starts producing more of an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase (5αR), perhaps as a way of making up for the decline in testosterone. 5αR converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (or DHT), which in turn accelerates hair loss and enlarges the prostate. Such prostate problems can cause you to lose a certain degree of sexual function. Moreover, common medications designed to relieve the symptoms—drugs like finasteride and tamsulosin—can actually cause erectile dysfunction. In mild to moderate cases, saw palmetto is recommended instead; it’s just as effective at relieving urinary tract symptoms and unlike pharmaceuticals, actually improves sexual function, including in cases of erectile dysfunction.

The drop in testosterone also leads to a change in the testosterone-estrogen ratio—yes, men have estrogen too—with the latter taking the lead, which explains why men often develop breasts (the official term for this is gynecomasty). The phenomenon is common enough for the term “moobs” (from “man boobs”) to have found its way into English dictionaries.

At around 40, the consequences of an inadequate lifestyle typically adopted by peiople in their 20s start to make themselves felt. The body doesn’t digest sugar and fat as easily anymore and the belly starts (or continues) to get rounder. Blood vessels stiffen up, the ability to concentrate drops off and fatigue sets in. Alcohol abuse gradually diminishes our faculties and saps our ability to learn new things—take new technologies for example. So while a night of drinking may make a guy more relaxed and open to sex, it also dulls his libido. (Note to self: a drunk man is not a sexy one!)

And as if that weren’t enough, the man in the mirror isn’t an Adonis anymore, which can take its toll on your self-esteem. When you don’t feel good in your skin, it’s hard to feel sexy!

Beyond testosterone and the physical aspect

Stress, chronic stress in particular, can put a damper on your libido. When you’re stressed, you don’t feel particularly attractive. You need to learn to manage stress, such as through regular physical activity. A lack of sleep, which compounds the effects of stress, also has a negative effect on sexual performance and interest in sex.

Depression saps the pleasure associated with a number of activities, including sex. It’s a serious health problem that needs to be attended to by a doctor. Keep in mind too that some antidepressants also affect libido.

When the “sex god” image and pressure to perform (sexually, professionally, in sports, etc.) don’t live up to reality and cause anxiety, a drop in libido can be the ultimate result. It’s important to start by focusing on intimacy and the love you and your partner share. A lack of intimacy creates a drop in desire in both partners. Take the time do things together, whether it’s playing a sport, talking or cuddling.

Potential solutions

Exercise! There’s a reason why you often hear about how important it is to play a sport or exercise regularly. When it comes to your libido, not only does exercise boost testosterone, but it also helps your body replace fat with muscle mass. Resistance training, like free weights, and high-intensity interval training (HIT) are excellent for this. But be careful not to overdo it, or else you’ll end up with the opposite effect.

Eat healthy. Adopt a well-balanced diet and go easy on the sugar.

  • Eat good fats like those found in fatty fish, nuts, avocados and olive oil. If you aren’t fond of fish, consider an omega-3 supplement.
  • Include more fibre in your diet: fresh fruits and vegetables, pulses and whole grains.
  • And limit your salt intake; too much salt is bad for your circulatory system. Prepared foods often contain too much salt. Your daily intake shouldn’t exceed 2,300 mg.

Sleep! The body produces testosterone while you sleep, which explains why well-rested men usually wake up with an erection. Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep a night and avoid screentime before bed. If you’re getting all the sleep you need, you’ll have less time to waste surfing the Web anyway! To help you benefit from a deep and restful sleep, take a cold shower before bed—it may seem odd, but it works! Some plants can also help you sleep better without leaving you feeling hung over come morning.

Here are some of the plants that can help boost your libido and the quality of your erection, as the case may be:

  • Flowering oat is an excellent nerve tonic and is recognized for its ability to boost libido in both men and women.
  • Ginkgo is most often used for memory problems, but it also works on microcirculation. Ginkgo can help alleviate erectile difficulty caused by poor circulation.

Before launching into full-blown therapy involving testosterone supplements, it’s worth trying to get in a little more physical activity, preferably with your partner! The benefits of exercise on libido apply to women too, so you’ll both feel closer!

Siegfried Gursche, MH; Zoltan Rona, MD, MSc, Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and The Alive Research Group, p. 273

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